Q&A: RUSTA MD lifts the lid on commercial UAV training operation

When Lincolnshire-based drone pilot training academy RUSTA first entered the commercial UAV market in 2015, it was one of three qualified entities operating in the UK. Three years on, there are tens of qualified operators offering professional drone training.

The company’s managing director, Sion Roberts, tells Commercial Drone Professional about some of the major developments he has witnessed over the last few years, as well as his predictions for what the future holds.

RUSTA has grown significantly in the UK over the past three years, are you now looking to roll out internationally?

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The UAV show was great because unwittingly a lot of overseas people were coming up to us saying we want courses in Kuwait, we want courses in Israel, that’s exactly what we want.

That’s how we’re going about it. We have also got good contacts in the department trade in the industry so they’re helping a little bit with the overseas stuff through the embassy’s and consulates throughout the world.

What are your predictions for which industries will be seeking training in the coming months?

What we’re seeing now, and this is great for us because it’s exactly the target market we’re going for, the bigger companies are not subcontracting their aerial work but doing it themselves in-house because it is more cost-effective. If you train to the right level you’re going to be safe, so that’s where we’re sort of going that is the trend we’re seeing.

This trend could account for the slowdown in domestic courses. Companies now are going ‘we need to get in on this drone thing, everyone seems to be doing it, let’s go train 10 people and see what happens.’ that’s the way I see it going. With regards to industries, I think the better way to answer that would be by saying: What industries aren’t using it? In Lincoln itself, builders have approached us as well as lots of agricultural companies and estate agencies, all those who can benefit from contacting us. And it’s only going to get bigger.

That then brings us onto regulation and how that is going to help and shape trends. Well, the Department of Transport and CAA have always been very forward thinking and have been very good at adopting and creating regulations to help business, which a lot of countries are negative about.

Do you think there’s going to be sufficient demand for the CCA to need to offer another drone-specific division?

We’re waiting with baited breath for the department of transport and the CAA to come up with what is required. I think I know what someone needs to know. I would teach them about airspace, all the distances involved, what damage they can do. A little bit of weather stuff, it maybe doesn’t need to be the two and half days we run now, it could online, an online web-inar or something like that so people know, but we still don’t know what they’re going to bring out. I think it will bring more opportunities for us as a training organisation. We will just have to watch this space.

Where would you like to see the industry in five years?

Time magazine said, in 2013 in an article, that drone technology would be the second biggest growing technology in the next decade next to 3D printing, which is phenomenal really. So I would like to see Time’s predictions become right. A lot of people have said the industry has become stagnated, and I don’t think it has.

They have drawn all these graphs with the trough of disillusionment. When you have a new industry, and this happened with the internet and internet developers, so there will always be this spike.

I don’t think it’s as negative as perhaps this graph would portray, I think we’re already balancing out, but we want to see it continue to grow, we want to see rules and regulations to adopt, fair measures, a sensible approach and then of course the next step is beyond visual line of sight because that will be the next stage up of game changing, when you can take an aircraft from here and fly it all the way to Leicester and back monitoring roads, monitoring anything. And if you think about what’s doing that now with regards to manned platforms, it’s perhaps not even been done. I think that’s going to be the big game changers. A lot of people say ‘well, when’s that going happen?’ probably 2020 earliest, maybe slightly later than that, but it will happen and it will be a big game changer.

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Emma Calder

The author Emma Calder

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